Drug Case Headed to High Court Implicates Wiretap Authority

WASHINGTON (CN) – Justice Neil Gorsuch took no part in the Supreme Court’s decision Monday to take up a drug case Monday that Gorsuch first heard months earlier at the 10th Circuit.

The underlying case stems from Kansas where Roosevelt Dahda was one of 43 people charged with operating a marijuana-distribution network.

In addition to facing roughly 17 years in prison for the 10 counts of which he was ultimately convicted, Dahda was ordered to forfeit nearly $17 million in criminal proceeds.

Dahda raised seven challenges to his convictions and sentence, which went before a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit before Gorsuch’s ascension to the Supreme Court.

When the federal appeals court issued its ruling on April 4, just three days before the Senate confirmed Gorsuch’s nomination, it did so via two-judge quorum, without Gorsuch’s input.

Gorsuch likewise did not get involved Monday in the Supreme Court’s decision to take up Dahda’s latest challenge. 

At the Supreme Court this term, Dahda will argue that the court should have suppressed evidence obtained pursuant to a wiretap order that he says exceeded the judge’s territorial jurisdiction.

Cellphone wiretaps accounted for much of the evidence that the government introduced against Roosevelt.

As noted in the 10th Circuit’s ruling, the wiretaps took place during the six months preceding Roosevelt’s arrest and were authorized by the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.

The 10th Circuit said its precedent from the case United States v. Los Dahda does not require suppression even where the wiretap orders.

Dahda’s attorney noted in a brief to the Supreme Court that the circuits “are in direct conflict both on the issue whether Title III’s territorial-jurisdiction limitation implicates a ‘core concern’ of the statute, and on the antecedent issue whether the extratextual ‘core concerns’ requirement even applies in the context of facially insufficient wiretap orders.”

This brief was signed by Rick Bailey Conlee with the Wichita firm Schmidt & Emerson, Edward Fehlig Jr. with the St. Louis firm Fehlig & Fehlig-Tatum, and Kannon Shanmugam at the Washington, D.C., firm Williams & Connolly.

Noel Francisco will argue for the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office.

Dahda already persuaded the 10th Circuit to remand his case for resentencing, showing that the District Court miscalculated his share of the network’s marijuana.

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